Oct 21st 2013
By Teresa Ambord
Just when you think people are starting to get the message to beware what they post online, this happens. Young, beautiful Philippine designer Jeane Catherine Napoles filled a bathtub full with currency, climbed in, and took a photo of herself bathing bare in a sea of money. Then she posted it on social media.
It wasn't the "bare" part that caused controversy. It was the money, honey – as well as YouTube videos and other evidence of her lavish lifestyle. The twenty-three-year-old resident of Los Angeles owns a luxury condominium at the Ritz Carlton plus other expensive real estate, a couple of Porsches, and she regularly flaunts her no-spending-limit shopping habits for all to see online.
Note to Jeane Napoles: When your mother is under investigation for embezzling an enormous amount of government funds – and when authorities are asking where the money is, it's probably not a good idea to post a picture of yourself rolling in cash.
Janet Napoles, Jeane's mother, is a Philippine businesswoman. Last August, when an unnamed suspect in the biggest embezzlement scheme ever to hit the Philippines was detained, he threw the spotlight of suspicion onto Janet Napoles as the mastermind. Also under investigation are three Philippine senators and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the former president. Arroyo is already behind bars for election fraud and graft.
So what are they accused of? Authorities say they siphoned off large chunks of pork barrel money that belonged to the government. When converted to US currency, the theft amounts to about $230 million.
How's the Daughter Involved?
Authorities aren't saying Jeane Napoles is involved in the theft at all. Kim Henares, the chief of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in the Philippines, said the daughter's case is not linked to the charges against her mother. But the bathtub photo definitely caught some official attention.
"We read newspapers. We follow the Internet. That is where we heard about her," said Henares.
The attention caused authorities in the Philippines and the United States to give Jeane Napoles a closer look. Now she's under investigation, unrelated to her mother's case, they say. Henares said that Jeane Napoles didn't file tax returns for 2011 and 2012, ". . . nor were there any records of returns filed that will prove that gifts, bequests, or devices were given to her," added Henares. "There was no donor's tax or estate tax paid either." She's reported as having estimated tax liabilities of $744,000.
Her own self-publicity may have been the reason she came under the spotlight of scrutiny in the first place. She's a successful designer in the United States, but at twenty-three years of age, the opulence she flaunts definitely has authorities looking deeper for other violations, including connections to the pork barrel scheme.
"Whether it is her fault or her mother's fault," said Henares, "someone will go to jail."
The scandal has caused a wave of hate against the Napoles women in the Philippines, where it's estimated 28 percent of the population lives in poverty. When one blogger was asked to explain why there was so much venom toward Jeane Napoles when her mother is the one accused of the theft, he posted, "Kids do suffer for the sins of the parents."